After every MIKE album and review, I always think to myself, “yeah, this is his best one yet”. It’s been 4 years now since the release of his 2017 masterpiece MAY GOD BLESS YOUR HUSTLE, and he has continued to channel his thoughts and feelings over production that is equally as desolate and murky as it is colourful, soulful and intricate. Since then he has been on a run of consistently great bodies of work, from the subdued and dreamy 2018 album renaissance man to the heavy and emotionally potent 2019 album tears of joy. He wears his heart on his sleeve, often cutting deep into his own emotional layers, tackling thoughts of grief, depression, growth and hope for the future. Disco! is his new project, a dense and inspiring body of work that features a more colourful sonic palette, with soul and jazz samples that create a profoundly beautiful and mesmeric soundscape that are perfect for MIKE’s low and murky voice.
From the get-go, “Evil Eye” sets the tone for the album with a gorgeous soul sample that perfectly complements the subtle bassline and drums that carry a light groove. My favourite line on this track is “Thank my parents cause I age fast, steer me through the flames / Know they hear it when my brain splash, cherish what I gave”. MIKE has matured in the way he copes with his mental health, emotional stress, the “flames” and more difficult moments in life. You could tell this through some of the profound and moving lyrics throughout. “alarmed!” is a hard-hitting one featuring a short but stellar verse from Sideshow. On the phenomenal “Leaders of Tomorrow“, he proclaims “Sometimes I thought to take the losses as a gift / ‘Cause only death’ll show you how to live, right?”. It’s such a potent bar because it truly feels like he’s at peace with himself and the environment around him, even if he is still going through personal struggles. Also, the beat switch on that is absolutely crazy! That powerful vocal sample was just perfect for it. It’s a good moment to mention that the entire project is produced by him under the dj blackpower moniker. And this album might as well be his best produced album to date. The guitar groove on “Center City” is gorgeous, it’s been stuck in my head all day. The keys on “Aww (Zaza)” are phenomenal, while the only instrumental-only track “at thirst sight by Assia” is one of the prettiest tracks he’s ever produced. The dreamy vocals, coupled with the subtle percussion and synth throughout is stunning, and when the beat slowly kicks in, it blossoms into this gorgeous, groove-heavy piece of music that just sounds so blissful. The claustrophobic and dark beat on “Frogville (Mk Ultra)” is incredible too, as MIKE’s mukry, dense verse is dominant throughout. “Time soaking beneath frame” is another great quotable from it. “World Market (Mo’ Money)” is one of my favourites on this album. The familiar, jazzy beat (if you know where the groove is from – respect!) feels organic and warm, though the lyrics are still quite vivid and paint quite an interesting portrait of his thoughts – “Clutter with the angst, too controlling of my path / They gon’ love you for a glance then dispose you in the trash / Hold you, you my mans, but it’s lonely when you crash”. The beat on “Crystal Ball” is the lushest most colourful thing he’s produced to date and it’s a perfect track to me. The trap-influenced “Sandra” is cool, while “tailwind” and “Airdrop” are gorgeous, jazzy tracks that pave way for the album closer “Spiral/Disco (Outro)“. The track is gorgeous instrumentally, with a gorgeous, jazzy, angelic sound that leads to this slightly distorted but groovy beat that carries until the very end, carrying the weight of his aura in sonic form. He raps “With tough times, and scars from another that was once mine / Really do these bars to recover, not for punchlines”, stating the importance of music to keeping him grounded and sane, recovering from the scars of his previous experiences. It’s such a revealing and vulnerable moment on the album, and backed with that colourful soundscape makes for a phenomenal moment on the album.
I’ve wondered about the album title Disco! and what it may represent. It may just be random, but I think there’s a deeper meaning to it. When I think of disco I think of glam, grandiosity and colour. While MIKE is far from a glamourous rap figure, the sound on this album is more colourful, dynamic and eclectic than on his previous albums, and I could personally feel the shift in energy from an album light weight of the world, which featured more of an abrasive, difficult sound to digest and get used to. Disco! feels more free-spirited and full of life. The instrumentals are super jazzy and smooth for the most part, or just straight-up joyous (like “Crystal Ball”). It’s an incredible body of work that further cements MIKE as one of the most forward-thinking artists of this generation. A true artistic feat, big ups!